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2021-05-23 04:40:35

Twenty-one long-distance runners have died after hail, freezing rain, and strong winds disrupted a 100-kilometer ultramarathon over mountainous terrain in northwestern China, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported Sunday.

Local officials told Xinhua there was a sudden change in weather near Baiyin in Gansu province around 1 p.m. Saturday. The temperature plummeted, and dozens of runners suffered hypothermia.

A total of 172 participants took part in the Yellow River Shilin 100km Cross-Country Race, organized by the Baiyin City and Jingtai County governments and held Saturday in the Yellow River Stone Forest tourist site. By Sunday morning, the other 151 participants had been rescued, eight of them reporting minor injuries.

According to one of the rescued participants, the previous day’s weather forecast had not predicted such extreme conditions. During the race, he said, the wind picked up and it started to rain. While climbing a steep hill, he became soaked and felt his body temperature dropping.

“I soon realized there was no feeling in my 10 fingers,” he wrote in a post on social app WeChat. “I put my fingers in my mouth for a while, but they still had no feeling. At the same time, I could tell that my tongue was cold.”

The runner opted to quit the race. He later learned that some participants had gone missing.

About 1,200 people were dispatched as part of the rescue mission, according to authorities. Screenshots of online chats among the participants showed that difficulty navigating the mountainous terrain hindered the search and rescue efforts. Some of the runners used blankets to keep warm before the strong winds blew them away.

This marks the fourth year that the Yellow River Shilin 100km Cross-Country Race has been held. The Yellow River Stone Forest management announced an emergency shutdown on Sunday.

Editor: Daniel Wilkinson.

(Header image: A rescue team searches for missing participants in the Yellow River Shilin 100km Cross-Country Race in Baiyin, Gansu province, May 23, 2021. Xinhua)